By John Ramos

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Two beloved paintings worth an estimated $20,000 were stolen from an artist colony in San Francisco. Now, the man who created them is speaking out about what is really lost when art is stolen.

E. Dale Erickson is a realist. In fact, his paintings are considered ‘hyper-realist,’ with detail so fine that some appear to be photographs. He lives and works out of an artist collective called Project Arnaud in San Francisco, where many of the artists display their work in the hallways.

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On Thursday, Erickson came home to find that two of his paintings hanging outside his apartment had been stolen.

One was a floral still-life, the other a painting of a chair in the corner of his girlfriend’s room. Erickson says they took months to complete and every detail in them has special meaning to him.

“Subconsciously, it affects me,” he said. “I thought, what am I doing the work for if somebody just steals it, you know? What’s the end, what’s the purpose?”

But it’s what happened in the hallways that really bothers him. He and other artists have removed most of their works, afraid to lose them but wondering what is the value of art if it has to be hidden away under lock and key.

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“The theft is bad enough but the byproduct of the theft is almost worse,” he said, “because of the paranoia that it creates, and the fact that we’re the arts community and we can’t put art in the hallways anymore when the public comes through to see the work.”

The building is fairly secure and another painting was taken the week before, so Dale suspects it may be an inside job.

“If they’re trying to sell them, then I have a chance at recovering them,” he said. “If they just stole them because they like them for their apartment, then I probably won’t see them again.”

Erickson is a realist, but he would like to get the paintings back and is offering a $500 reward, no questions asked. If the thief really is an art lover, Erickson hopes he or she will reconsider what is lost when art is taken from the public view.

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To offer information about the stolen paintings call (415) 558-8940.